How did Red Sox pitching prospect Juan Daniel Encarnación fare in 2022 and what can be expected from the righty this season?

In his evaluation of the Red Sox farm system, which he ranked 23rd out of 30, heading into the 2023 season, The Athletic’s Keith Law noted that Boston’s “group of pitching prospects is one of the weakest” in baseball.

“They might not have a future MLB starter anywhere on their full-season rosters,” wrote Law. “The best of those candidates all have huge reliever risk, at least.”

One under-the-radar prospect who could help change this narrative in 2023 is Juan Daniel Encarnacion, who is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 44 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks 16th among pitchers in the organization.

Encarnacion, 21, spent the majority of the 2022 minor-league season with Low-A Salem before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville in August. The right-hander posted a 4.09 ERA — but much more respectable — 3.34 FIP — with 119 strikeouts to 39 walks in 24 appearances (23 starts) spanning 103 1/3 innings of work for the Red Sox.

Among the 14 Carolina League pitchers who surpassed the 100-inning mark last year, Encarnacion ranked third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.36) and strikeout rate (26.7 percent), seventh in walks per nine innings (3.40) and walk rate (8.8 percent), first in home runs per nine innings (0.26), sixth in WHIP (1.30), seventh in ERA, second in FIP, and fourth in xFIP (4.12), per FanGraphs. He also allowed the highest batting average on balls put in play (.336), which suggests he may have been unlucky at times.

Upon making the jump from Salem to Greenville in late August, Encarnacion made two starts for the Drive before the season came to a close. His first start did not go so well, as he surrendered four earned runs in five innings against the Rome Braves on September 2. One week later, though, the righty bounced back by tossing five scoreless frames and striking out seven in a 2-0 win over the Asheville Tourists at hitter-friendly Fluor Field.

All things considered, it was a solid first full season in affiliated ball for Encarnacion after he impressed at the rookie-level Florida Complex League in 2021. The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier even wrote for Baseball America in November that he believed Encarnacion “already started to open eyes” in 2022.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion originally signed with the Red Sox for $40,000 as an international free agent coming out of San Pedro de Macoris in Sept. 2018. Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the wiry 6-foot-2, 173-pound hurler throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of an 88-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 76-78 mph curveball, and an 84-86 mph changeup.

Encarnacion, who turns 22 late next month, is projected to return to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 campaign. He can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time next winter, so he certainly could improve his standing as a prospect if he proves capable of holding his own against more advanced hitting.

(Picture of Juan Daniel Encarnacion: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox’ Miguel Bleis enters Baseball America’s top 100 prospects rankings

Red Sox outfield prospect Miguel Bleis has entered Baseball America’s top 100 rankings heading into the 2023 season.

Previously unranked, Bleis is now considered by the publication to be the 88th-ranked prospect in all of baseball. The 18-year-old was one of five Red Sox minor-leaguers to make the cut for the top-100 on Wednesday, joining the likes of Marcelo Mayer at No. 10, Triston Casas at No. 29, Ceddanne Rafaela at No. 71, and Masataka Yoshida at No. 87.

Bleis is already regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally signed the Dominican-born outfielder for $1.5 million as a highly-touted international free agent coming out of San Pedro de Macoris in January 2021.

After a solid pro debut in the Dominican Summer League, Bleis made the jump to the Florida Complex League last year. The right-handed hitter batted a stout .301/.353/.543 with 14 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 27 RBIs, 28 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 10 walks, and 45 strikeouts in 40 games (167 plate appearances) for Boston’s rookie-level affiliate.

Among qualified hitters in the Florida Complex League last season, Bleis ranked seventh in batting average, 24th in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (.896), 12th in line-drive rate (22.3 percent) second in isolated power (.242), tied for first in speed score (9.3), and sixth in wRC+ (142), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Bleis saw the majority of his playing time for the FCL Red Sox come in center field. The 6-foot-3, 170-pounder logged 310 1/3 innings in center and just five innings in right while registering a team-high five outfield assists, which is a testament to his arm strength.

Had he not been bothered by back soreness in late August, Bleis would have been promoted to Low-A Salem for the final few weeks of the 2022 campaign. The Red Sox instead opted to have Bleis stay back in Fort Myers to get healthy before sending him home for the winter.

Despite playing in just 40 minor-league games, Bleis still drew plenty of attention throughout the calendar year. Back in August, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall tweeted that Bleis is “the prospect generating the most buzz in the Red Sox farm system right now.”

In late October, Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline tabbed Bleis as “Boston’s best international prospect since Rafael Devers,” noting that the former’s stock rose in 2022 since “he displayed his all-around ability to a larger audience while making his U.S. debut.”

Bleis, who turns 19 in March, is expected to begin the 2023 season in Salem, where he should serve as the Red Sox’ primary center fielder. There are some concerns about his approach at the plate, but he has time to work out those issues as he continues to develop. As the saying goes, Bleis’ potential is through the roof at the moment.

“He has five tools. That’s the reality,” Red Sox director of player development said of Bleis in a conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings last September. “You don’t see that too often. What those five tools will ultimately (become), how they will pan out, not sure. But in terms of the tools, and in terms of the ability to impact the game in various ways, he does that. I think whenever you have a player who does those types of things, he’s someone you want to pay attention to and watch.”

(Picture of Miguel Bleis: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

How did Red Sox prospect Blaze Jordan fare between Low-A Salem and High-A Greenville in 2022?

Blaze Jordan may no longer be considered a teenager after celebrating his 20th birthday on Monday, but he is still one of the youngest and brightest prospects in the Red Sox farm system.

In 120 games between Low-A Salem and High-A Greenville this past season, Jordan batted .289/.363/.445 with 30 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 68 RBIs, 60 runs scored, five stolen bases, 48 walks, and 94 strikeouts over 521 total plate appearances.

The right-handed hitting infielder broke camp this spring with Salem, which is where he ended things last season. He slashed .287/.357/.446 with 29 doubles, three triples, eight homers, 57 runs driven in, 48 runs scored, four stolen bases, 37 walks, and 67 strikeouts in 95 games (415 plate appearances) with the Red Sox before earning a promotion to Greenville in early August.

While with the Drive for the remainder of the 2022 campaign, Jordan hit .301/.387/.441 with just one double, four home runs, 11 RBIs, 12 runs scored, one stolen base, 11 walks, and 27 strikeouts across 25 games spanning 106 trips to the plate.

Upon being promoted over the summer, Jordan was able to draw more walks, which in turn led to him getting on base more. He also punched out a higher clip (16.1 percent to 25.5 percent) and saw his power production curtail, so it was not necessarily the smoothest of transitions.

Still, Jordan was among the most productive hitters in the lower-minors and in the Red Sox organization this year. Of the 39 players in the system who reached the necessary number of plate appearances to qualify as a league leader, Jordan ranked seventh in strikeout rate (18.0 percent), 12th in swinging strike rate (14.0 percent), eighth in batting average, 15th in on-base percentage, 13th in slugging percentage, 11th in OPS (.808), 18th in isolated power (.156), eighth in line-drive rate (24.4 percent), and 12th in wRC+ (124), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Jordan split time between first and third base at both of his stops this season. Altogether, the burly 6-foot-2, 220-pounder logged 402 2/3 innings at first and 499 1/3 innings at the hot corner. He committed six errors at each position and unsurprisingly posted a higher fielding percentage at first (.983) than he did at third (.939).

A native of Southaven, Miss., Jordan was originally selected by the Red Sox in the third round of the 2020 amateur draft out of DeSoto Central High School. He graduated a year early after reclassifying in 2019 and was committed to play college baseball at Mississippi State. But with the help of area scout Danny Watkins, Boston was able to sway Jordan away from his commitment by offering him a lucrative $1.75 million signing bonus.

Jordan officially put pen to paper that July, but he did not make his professional debut until the following June on account of the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out the 2020 minor-league season. He has since appeared in a total of 148 games across three different levels and owns a slash line of .296/.364/.472 to go along with 18 home runs and 94 RBIs in that span.

MLB Pipeline currently ranks Jordan as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system while SoxProspects.com has him at No. 15. He still has room to grow from a developmental point-of-view on both sides of the ball, but the potential — especially when it comes to his raw power — is certainly there.

If Jordan makes it through the winter without being involved in any sort of trade, he is projected to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 season and would seemingly have the chance to make the jump to Double-A Portland at some point next summer.

(Picture of Blaze Jordan: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

How did Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes fare in first full pro season?

Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes enjoyed a productive first full season of pro ball in 2022.

Selected by Boston in the 18th round of the 2021 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University, Sikes played strictly in the Florida Complex League last summer after signing for just $97,500 as a college senior. He broke minor-league camp this spring with Low-A Salem.

In 50 games with the Carolina League affiliate, the right-handed hitting Sikes batted .258/.390/.516 (148 wRC+) with 18 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 28 RBIs, 36 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 28 walks, and 55 strikeouts over 195 plate appearances before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville in early July.

With the Drive, Sikes’ production took a dip but he still managed a .248/.351/.446 slash line (118 wRC+) to go along with 11 doubles, one triple, six homers, 20 runs driven in, 21 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 25 walks, and 44 strikeouts across 44 games spanning 95 trips to the plate.

When taking these numbers from the second half of the season into consideration, it is worth mentioning that Sikes posted a .931 OPS in his first 17 games in Greenville before struggling to the tune of a .181/.302/.347 clip in the month of August. The 23-year-old did end his year on a solid note, though, as he went 8-for-23 (.348) in September with a pair of doubles, five walks, and five swiped bags.

All told, Sikes was one of 26 Red Sox minor-leaguers who accrued at least 350 total plate appearances this year. Among that group, he ranked sixth in walk rate (13.9 percent), fifth in on-base percentage (.371), seventh in slugging percentage (.481), fourth in OPS (.852), fifth in isolated power (.228), third in speed score (8.3), second in line-drive rate (29.5 percent), and fourth in wRC+ (132), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, saw playing time at all three outfield positions in his stints with Salem and Greenville. Between the two affiliates, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound speedster logged 136 2/3 innings in left, 315 innings in center, and 324 innings in right. He registered a total of 10 outfield assists and also displayed his arm strength on the mound by making two relief appearances in mop-up duty for the Salem Sox.

Sikes, who turns 24 in April, is not currently regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. The native Texan is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 campaign. That being said, one would have to imagine an early-season promotion to Double-A Portland could be in play for Sikes next spring if he picks up where he left off for the Drive.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

Red Sox prospect Brainer Bonaci walked as many times as he struck out (89) in 2022

The Red Sox did not lose infield prospect Brainer Bonaci in the major-league phase of Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft.

Bonaci, 20, ended the season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 20 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The switch-hitter spent the entirety of the 2022 campaign with Low-A Salem and batted .262/.397/.385 (125 wRC+) with 19 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 50 RBIs, 86 runs scored, 28 stolen bases, 89 walks, and 89 strikeouts over 108 games spanning 494 trips to the plate.

Among qualified Carolina League hitters, Bonaci ranked second in walk rate (18 percent), ninth in strikeout rate (18 percent) sixth in swinging-strike rate (8.1 percent), 19th in batting average, second in on-base percentage, 23rd in slugging percentage, 11th in OPS (.782), 11th in stolen bases, 12th in speed score (7.8), eighth in line-drive rate (24.4 percent), and sixth in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Bonaci saw playing time at three different positions this year. The 5-foot-10, 164-pounder expectedly logged 477 1/3 innings at second base, 67 innings at third base, and 267 2/3 innings at shortstop. But he also made one appearance as an outfielder for the first time in his career as he logged one inning in right field back on April 17.

Born in Venezuela, Bonaci originally signed with the Red Sox for $290,000 as an international free agent on his 16th birthday in 2018. The Catia La Mar made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League the following year and then impressed evaluators at fall instructs after the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He spent the majority of 2021 in the Florida Complex League before earning a late-season promotion to Salem and — as previously mentioned — put together a solid year at Low-A in 2022.

In a virtual chat with Baseball America subscribers last month, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote that Bonaci did garner some consideration as a potential top 10 prospect in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2023 season, but questions surrounding his bat-to-ball skills put him behind No. 10 prospect (and fellow versatile infielder) Eddinson Paulino.

The Red Sox were at risk of losing both Bonaci and Paulino in this week’s Rule 5 Draft since neither was added to the 40-man roster last month. Fortunately for them, Bonaci and Paulino went unclaimed, which likely has something to do with their lack of experience in the upper-minors. That said, the two infielders will again be Rule 5-eligible again next winter.

Bonaci, who does not turn 21 until next July, currently grades as a superior defender to Paulino, according to Speier. Both are projected to make the jump to High-A Greenville for the start of the 2023 minor-league season in April.

(Picture of Brainer Bonaci: Robert Simmons/RTS Photography)

Red Sox prospect Eddinson Paulino proved to be dynamic with Low-A Salem this season

Eddinson Paulino was among the Red Sox’ top performers in the Florida Complex League last year. He showed why that was no fluke as he made the transition to full-season ball in 2022.

Coming out of minor-league spring training, Paulino was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 28 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He then broke camp and spent the entirety of the campaign at Low-A Salem.

In 114 games with the Salem Red Sox, the versatile left-handed hitter batted .266/.359/.469 with 35 doubles, 10 triples, 13 home runs, 66 RBIs, 96 runs scored, 27 stolen bases, 64 walks, and 105 strikeouts over 539 plate appearances.

When the All-Star break arrived in mid-July, Paulino was hitting just .239/.327/.451 through his first 80 games. From July 22 onward, though, the 20-year-old slashed a stout .331/.432/.559 with 18 extra-base hits in his final 34 games of the season.

Among 51 qualified Carolina League hitters, Paulino ranked 24th in walk rate (11.9 percent), 14th in strikeout rate (19.5 percent), 14th in swinging-strike rate (11.2 percent), fourth in line-drive rate (25.6 percent), 14th in batting average, 17th in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, fifth in OPS (.827), fifth in isolated power (.203), fifth in speed score (8.5), and fifth in wRC+ (128), per FanGraphs.

“He can impact the game in several ways,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith in September. “He can launch one if needed. He’s just become a good hitter.”

Defensively, Paulino made appearances at five different positions (not including designated hitter) for Salem this season. The 5-foot, 155-pounder logged 301 innings at shortstop, 289 innings at third base, 243 2/3 innings at second base, 98 1/3 innings in center field, and eight innings in left. Both of his outfield assists came in center.

“Just to have that skillset being a left-handed hitter,” said Romero.

The Red Sox originally signed Paulino for $205,000 as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2018. The Santiago native made his professional debut in his home country the following summer but his career was put on hold in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It now turns out that Paulino likely took advantage of the lost 2020 minor-league season by honing his craft in his own way. Whether it be his ability to make hard contact or steal bases at a high rate, the Red Sox were pleased with what they saw from Paulino this year.

“We’ve always liked his hitting ability,” Romero said. “He hits the ball hard in all quadrants. He’s another guy who jumps on fastballs but I think has really increased his recognition skills. He’s made a big jump in that. He’s got a good number of walks. The on-base percentage is good.

“And also the speed element of the game,” he added. “He’s got 26, 27 stolen bases. All that makes him a very dynamic player. … Another player who it’s been really cool to see his development.”

Paulino, who does not turn 21 until next July, is now regarded by Baseball America as the 18th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is Rule 5-eligible this winter, but is not a sure bet to receive protection by being added to the 40-man roster later this month.

While the tools and talent are certainly there, Paulino has yet to play above A-ball. And so the Red Sox may elect to protect prospects who have already reached the upper levels of the minor-leagues like Ceddanne Rafaela, Christian Koss, Enmanuel Valdez, Wilyer Abreu, Brandon Walter, and Thad Ward, among others.

Assuming that Paulino remains in the organization through the winter, he is projected to make the jump to High-A Greenville at the start of the 2023 minor-league season in April.

(Picture of Eddinson Paulino: Robert Simmons/RTS Photography)

Red Sox’ Miguel Bleis tabbed by MLB Pipeline as ‘Boston’s best international prospect since Rafael Devers’

On Wednesday night, MLB.com’s Jim Callis identified Miguel Bleis as the Red Sox’ best international prospect since Rafael Devers.

Bleis, 18, originally signed with the Red Sox for $1.5 million (the same amount Devers received in 2013) as a highly-touted international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in January 2021. After making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League last year, the San Pedro de Macoris native made the jump to the Florida Complex League this summer.

In 40 games with Boston’s rookie-level, Fort Myers-based affiliate, the right-handed hitting outfielder batted .301/.353/.543 with 14 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 27 RBIs, 28 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 10 walks, and 45 strikeouts over 167 plate appearances.

Among qualified FCL hitters this season, Bleis ranked seventh in batting average, 24th in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (.896), 12th in line-drive rate (22.3 percent) second in isolated power (.242), tied for first in speed score (9.3), and sixth in wRC+ (142), per FanGraphs.

While he was undoubtedly one of the top hitters in the lower minors this year, Bleis did struggle a bit when it came to plate discipline, as noted by Callis. In simpler terms, he only walked six percent of the time while striking out at 26.9 percent clip. He also posted the ninth-highest swinging-strike rate (33.8 percent) in the FCL.

Defensively, Bleis saw the majority of his playing time this season come in center field. The 6-foot-3, 170-pounder logged 310 1/3 innings in center and just five innings in right while recording a team-high five outfield assists.

Taking that statistic into consideration, Callis adds that Bleis should be able to stick in center on account of his arm strength. If not, he has the offensive upside and defensive profile to shift over to right.

As the 2022 FCL season drew to a close in August, the Red Sox began promoting several of their younger prospects — such as Mikey Romero and Roman Anthony — to Low-A Salem. Bleis very well could have been part of that group, but the club opted to have him stay in Fort Myers since he was dealing with some back soreness.

Back in September, Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham told The Athletic’s Chad Jennings that had Bleis been healthy, he would have joined Anthony, Romero, and the like in Salem for the remainder of the minor-league campaign.

“He certainly would have been with that group (that was promoted to Salem),” Abraham said. “We let him know that he would have been with that group. But I think being healthy going into the offseason was the primary concern. So, he stayed in Fort Myers and made sure we got that (back issue) right and then we sent him home. There’s no doubt he had earned a promotion to Salem if not at the end of the year, earlier. He is aware of that.”

Bleis, who turns 19 in March, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He has yet to crack the publication’s top 100 list, but that could happen sooner rather than later.

Considering what Abraham already told Jennings, it seems likely that Bleis will kick off his first full professional season in Salem next spring. After all, his potential is through the roof and he has the tools to back it up.

“He has five tools. That’s the reality,” said Abraham. “You don’t see that too often. What those five tools will ultimately (become), how they will pan out, not sure. But in terms of the tools, and in terms of the ability to impact the game in various ways, he does that. 

“I think whenever you have a player who does those types of things, he’s someone you want to pay attention to and watch,” added Abraham. “Whether he’s on the bases, whether he’s in the field, whether he’s in the batter’s box, you know something special is going to happen, and I think that’s something he showed during his short time in the states.”

(Picture of Miguel Bleis: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox catching prospect Nathan Hickey turns in impressive first full pro season

Nathan Hickey came into his first full professional season ranked by Baseball America as the top catching prospect in the Red Sox farm system. He showed why he was worthy of that ranking over the last six months.

Selected by Boston in the fifth round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Florida, Hickey broke camp this spring with Low-A Salem, which is where he ended things in 2021.

In 41 games with Salem this season, the left-handed hitter batted .271/.429/.507 with 12 doubles, seven home runs, 39 RBIs, 31 runs scored, 39 walks, and 39 strikeouts over 182 plate appearances. That level of production prompted a promotion to High-A Greenville in late June.

With the Drive, Hickey hit for more power, though he also got on base less frequently. The 22-year-old slashed .252/.397/.539 with six doubles, nine homers, 23 runs driven in, 19 runs scored, 24 walks, and 39 strikeouts across 34 games (146 plate appearances). He was sidelined for a week in early August due to a concussion.

Between the two affiliates, Hickey produced a cumulative .263/.415/.522 slash line to go along with 18 doubles, 16 home runs, 62 RBIs, 50 runs scored, a walk rate of 19.2 percent, and a strikeout rate of 23.8 percent. Overall, his 155 wRC+ ranked third among minor-league catchers who made at least 100 trips to the plate this season, per FanGraphs.

On the other side of the ball, Hickey made 57 starts at catcher for Salem and Greenville this year. The 6-foot, 210-pound backstop logged 4585 2/3 innings behind the plate and threw out 10 of 75 base stealers. He also committed eight errors and allowed 10 passed balls.

Defense has been an issue with Hickey since before being drafted. The Jacksonville native came up as an infielder in high school but moved to catcher with the Gators so that he could regularly get his bat into the lineup.

Despite the lack of experience at a demanding position, the Red Sox still drafted Hickey as a catcher and signed him to an over-slot deal of $1 million. The doubts people had about his defensive abilities did not sit well with Hickey, as he explained to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier earlier this summer.

“I just hadn’t had enough time behind the plate to be able to show that was the spot for me,” Hickey said. “But I learned in one day more things about catching being here with Boston than I ever did at Florida.”

As detailed by Speier, Hickey did not call pitches at Florida and instead received the calls from his coaches. Since going pro, however, the Red Sox have let him call pitches on his own, which requires him to study up, implement a game plan, and be adaptable during games.

“It was a big step. Pitch-calling was kind of the thing that was stumping me a little bit at the beginning [of the season],” said Hickey. “But [being a catcher] is not really [about] me being successful, it’s making [the pitcher] look as successful as you can.”

In a separate, more recent piece for Baseball America, Speier relayed that pitchers enjoyed throwing to Hickey this season. And while Hickey has embraced becoming a game-caller, there is still more work to do in order to improve as a defender.

Hickey, who turns 23 in November, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 26 prospect in Boston’s farm system. That unsurprisingly ranks tops among catchers in the organization. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 minor-league season next spring.

With that being said, it certainly seems feasible for Hickey to make the jump to Double-A Portland before the end of the next campaign. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

How did Red Sox top prospect Marcelo Mayer fare in first full pro season?

Marcelo Mayer, arguably the top prospect in the Red Sox farm system and one of the brightest young talents in all of baseball, wrapped up his first full professional season last month.

Originally selected by Boston with the fourth overall pick in last summer’s amateur draft out of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, Calif., Mayer appeared in four Grapefruit League games earlier this spring before breaking minor-league camp with Low-A Salem.

With the Salem Red Sox, the 19-year-old infielder batted .286/.406/.504 with 26 doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 40 RBIs, 46 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, 51 walks, and 78 strikeouts over 66 games (308 plate appearances). Despite missing a significant chunk of time with a sprained right wrist in late April and most of May, Mayer earned a promotion to High-A Greenville in early August.

Making the jump from Salem to Greenville alongside fellow top prospect Blaze Jordan, Mayer initially got off to a rough start with the Drive and was batting just .179 in his first 17 games as the calendar flipped to September. But the left-handed hitter ended the year on a strong note by registering multiple hits in six of the eight games he played in.

All told, Mayer slashed .265/.379/.449 with four doubles, one triple, four homers, 13 runs driven in, 15 runs scored, one stolen base, 17 walks, and 29 strikeouts in 25 games (116 plate appearances) with Greenville. Between the two Class-A affiliates, he hit a respectable .280/.399/.489 to go along with 30 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, 53 RBIs, 61 runs scored, 17 stolen bases, 68 walks, and 107 strikeouts across 91 games spanning 424 total trips to the plate.

As a result of such a productive season, Mayer was recently named to Baseball America’s Age 19 Prospect All-Star Team. He and fellow 2021 draftees Harry Ford, Jordan Lawlar, and James Wood were all recognized for what they did during their age-19 seasons.

On the other side of the ball, Mayer was coming off a debut season in the Florida Complex League in which he committed 10 errors in just 177 2/3 innings at shortstop. He later told The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey that improving defensively had “been a focal point of his offseason work” and he put that on display this year.

In Salem, Mayer made 10 errors over 505 1/3 innings at his primary position and was named the best defensive shortstop in the Carolina League. In Greenville, the 6-foot-3, 188-pounder logged 189 innings at short and committed just two errors there. While defensive metrics for minor-leaguers are not made public, Mayer did see his fielding percentage rise from .956 with the Red Sox to .974 with the Drive.

Mayer, who turns 20 in December, is currently regarded by Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, and SoxProspects.com as the No. 1 prospect in Boston’s farm system. In terms of top-100 prospect rankings, Baseball America has him at No. 12, MLB Pipeline has him at No. 7, and FanGraphs has him at No. 19.

It goes without saying that Mayer is an exciting player who possesses All-Star potential. While the native Californian is still a ways away from making it to the major-leagues, he is projected to return to Greenville next spring. Depending on how things go there, he could make it up to Double-A Portland by the end of the 2023 campaign.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

Red Sox prospect Allan Castro takes another step forward in first season stateside

Allan Castro can no longer be called the reigning Red Sox Latin Program Position Player of the Year. That distinction now falls to infielder/outfielder Andy Lugo, who received the honor on Monday.

Castro, however, put together a strong first season in the United States after being named the organization’s Latin Program Position Player of the Year in 2021.

Following a 2021 campaign in which he posted a .756 OPS in the Dominican Summer League, Castro made the jump to the Florida Complex League for the start of the 2022 season. In 39 games with Boston’s rookie-level affiliate in Fort Myers, the switch-hitter slashed a respectable .279/.355/.451 with four doubles, four triples, three home runs, 17 RBIs, 19 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 13 walks, and 32 strikeouts over 141 plate appearances.

Though he may have been overshadowed by fellow outfielder Miguel Bleis, Castro still ranked 11th in batting average, 26th in on-base percentage, eighth in slugging percentage, ninth in OPS (.805), 11th in isolated power (.172), 13th in speed score (7.8), and 11th in wRC+ (122) among FCL hitters who made at least 140 trips to the plate this season, per FanGraphs.

Not long after the Florida Complex League season came to a close, Castro and several other Red Sox minor-leaguers earned a promotion to Low-A Salem. He registered just one hit in his first five games with Salem but ended the year by going 5-for-18 (.278) with a double, a triple, four RBIs, and five runs scored in his final five games.

“Castro took a significant step forward this season,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero told BloggingtheRedSox.com via email. “He’s continued to grow and gained a lot of strength. Additionally, he found ways to make his swing more efficient and started using the whole field more often.”

Between the two affiliates, Castro logged 232 1/3 innings in left field, 84 innings in center field, and 24 innings in right field. The 6-foot-1, 170-pounder recorded four outfield assists and committed just one error all year.

“His athleticism is starting to show itself more on the field,” Romero said. “He is sort of a sleeper prospect who we expect will do more things in 2023.”

Castro, 19, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 53 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally signed the native Dominican for $100,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Santo Domingo in July 2019.

At that time, Castro was a middle infielder, but he has since made the transition to the outfield and figures to stick there moving forward. Taking into account that he does not turn 20 until next May, Castro is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Salem for the start of the 2023 season.

(Picture of Allan Castro: Bryan Green/Flickr)